The Brain Power for Reading Digital Text

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The SAMR model, developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura, sets the goal of transforming learning experiences, through technology, thus leading to higher achievement for students. As a teacher, myself, I have found the model to be useful in conceptualizing ways of integrating technology into my teaching that doesn’t just replicate what we could be doing with paper and pencil.

However, recently I have begun to wonder if there is an inherent design flaw in this model. I am mulling this idea over in my head and hoping for feedback from readers, so Dr. Puentedura, please don’t take offense just yet.

The preservice teachers in one of the courses that I teach are expected to bring an iPad to the first day of class and use the device to read our etextbook and our course packet. In the past I prepared a paper course packet with the syllabus and course materials. Now this packet is shared as an iBook. So essentially I have substituted an ebook for a paper book (SAMR’s substitution level). One might make the case that this activity is at the augmentation level because of the cool ways a user can retrieve and organize their notes within the iBook, something that can’t easily be done with paper.

For all of my students, this is their first experience with reading and taking notes in an iBook. Many students appear to be motivated to explore and utilize the features of the iBook, but also apprehensive due to the new format. These students have compiled over a dozen years of experience learning from print text. Some of them actually view learning with the iBook as a nuisance or even a roadblock to reaching their immediate goal – getting through the work of learning. Some express feelings of apprehension that the iBook will slow down their work or they will become frustrated with figuring out how to do the things that, at this point, seem to come naturally with a spiral bound paper packet and a stack of sticky notes.

Could it be that an instructional activity utilizing technology could, on the surface, appear to be at the lower SAMR levels, but actually modify and transform learning? Could the challenge of navigating the digital text add a dimension of complexity not found with reading print texts, thus requiring a higher level of thinking from the reader?

I have a hunch, but I am not exactly sure. Part II of this column (to be shared soon) will focus on extending my questions about the SAMR model to Internet text.

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